When most writers think of software just for them (beyond generic programs like Word and Evernote), they think of Scrivener. It’s a great program, but did you know there are TONS of other options, many of them free?
And if you’re like me and aren’t a Plotter, you’re going to love discovering that, while the Great-Scrivener-Behemoth may not be for you, there’s probably a dedicated writing software that is!
This is a long post, so by way of overview, we’ll be covering:
- Writing software focused on organization (stuff that’s a lot like Scrivener)
- Writing software focused on writing
- Software for distraction-free writing
- Software for tracking writing progress
- Software for motivation
Let’s dive in!
Disclaimer: I have not personally used many of these programs and cannot vouch for them. Download and use at your own risk. Always make backups of your work. Neither I nor this blog are responsible for any damage to your work or device incurred by using a program mentioned here.
Writing Software Focused on Organization
(In other words, Pansters and Hybrids, these might be overkill for you!)
“Track characters, scenes, settings, plotlines, and more with the free Hiveword novel organizer. Hiveword’s customizability ensures that you’ll never outgrow it.” from Hiveword.com
Somewhat older-looking interface, but solid planning tools. Storage is in the cloud, and everything can be exported at any time. Hiveword Plus upgrade provides additional features.
Clean interface. Includes planning tools, character questionnaires, a text editor for drafting, and some interesting features like the character distribution chart. Can export to PDF and rtf. Files stored on your computer.
A full-featured free software that has a lot in common with Scrivener. Saves to your computer and can export to several different file types.
This open-source tool is possibly still under development/in beta so use carefully and make sure you back up your work. It features an outliner in the form of nested chapters and scenes, a distraction-free writing mode, and support for the Snowflake Method of writing. It has some interesting tools like a word-frequency counter, index cards, and a story line / timeline. Saves to your computer and exports to a variety of file types including ePub.
An unusual take on using index cards for plotting.
Another index card software that appears to have a pretty good text editor and allows for a full-screen distraction-free writing mode. See the feature tour here.
Features index cards; character, scene, and setting planning; and a writing environment that can automatically format both novel manuscripts and screenplays. It saves to the cloud (which is good since there’s an iOS version for writing on the go) and can export to a large variety of file types including those needed to work with other software. Also can create an ePub and Kindle-ready file.
Want more free organizational tools? Check out Paul Willis’s post on free screenwriting tools from Amazon and how novelists can use them!
Writing Software Focused on Writing
Features planning tools, cloud save and backups, accessibility from any device via a browser, progress stats, and export to several file types.
I have personally used this one (the free version) and I LOVED it. I don’t want a lot of planning tools in my software, but a little organization of books, chapters, and the ability to add notes to myself as I go is pretty helpful! It saves to the cloud and can export to html, ePub, and docx. I would be hooked if only they had a mobile version!
Novlr has a beautiful interface and seems to have a great set of features. It saves to the cloud but can be used both on- and offline. It can export to several file formats include ePub. This is a good video showing the interface, even though it’s talking about using it for non-fiction.
Bear is a general writing (or even note-taking) app for Apple devices. It supports markdown and includes things like word count and other stats (think: reading time). It has a focus mode, syncs with all devices via the cloud, and can export to a number of file formats.
“iA Writer is designed to provide the best writing experience on macOS, iOS and Android.” from iA.net
This app has focus mode, night mode, supports markdown, syncs via a number of cloud services, and exports to html, docx, and PDF (uses custom export templates). It also allows you to send posts directly to WordPress or Medium.
They also provide tutorial videos to get you up and running.
Note: the Android version is free, while the Mac and iOS versions are paid.
Ahh… Ulysses. My software of choice. I used the demo version and completely fell in love; it works well for my writing method. Main features for me? Markdown support, awesome wordcount tracking and goal-setting (I’m in love with the little visual circle that tells me when I’m approaching my goal!), the organization of parts and chapters, the full-screen mode, the ability to add keywords for major plot points (yep, I’m a Hybrid), and the gorgeous export options.
Seriously. I exported my short story, The Art Contest, as an ePub and it passed ePub Validator with flying colors. There are even OPTIONS. Like, you can export to ePub or another file type and apply beautiful styles to it!
(Oh, and if you’re thinking “I don’t want to have anything to do with Markdown… that’s like for programmers or something,” don’t worry. It lets you use normal keyboard shortcuts, and if you use the “Simple” theme, you can’t really even see the markup. Also, it’s what is responsible for such a flawlessly clean and automated ePub output.)
You can also write blog posts and send them right to WordPress or Medium!
Anyway. Sorry for raving about this. I can’t wait to buy the full version and then later the mobile app. (Because I really dislike being out without access to my WIP.) Sorry it’s Apple only…
Software for Writing Distraction-Free
This is such a cool in-browser app! Great for use on your Chromebook, too. It’s beautifully distraction-free, has easy formatting tools, has a dark mode for writing in low light, can be set to backup to Google Docs, and has a bunch of customization options. It has several export options.
Oh, and DEFINITELY turn on the typewriter sounds under preferences. They’re so cool and realistic!
Another piece of software I personally LOVE! I have an older version of it, but the new version looks amazing. Test it out on the site (just don’t be put off by the new-age-speak if you’re not into that sort of thing)! Features a full-screen experience with gorgeous backgrounds, background music (if desired), typing sounds (which I love), and the ability to change the font. Saves locally (I pointed mine to a Dropbox folder) and to a few different file types. Fun fact: you get to choose your own price!
FocusWriter is very customizable. You can use one of the default interface themes or create your own (even using your own background image!). It has typewriter sounds, and allows you to set timers/alarms and daily goals. Saves locally in a number of file formats.
Software for Tracking Writing Progress
Set a goal and how you’d like to track it. Set up a challenge and invite friends! Great for NaNoWriMo.
Very similar to Pacemaker, but totally free. It allows you to create a challenge and have friends as well. When you set yourself a challenge, you can choose to allow access to your NaNoWriMo account to pull your wordcount from there.
I personally really like this app. It’s the only free one I’ve found that integrates a writing timer and a wordcount log. Because it does both, it’s able to provide detailed stats and graphs on your progress and how many words per hour you are writing. Useful info and fun to push yourself to go faster! The free version only allows you to track one project at a time, though.
This Android app allows you to give your project a goal (number of words and deadline) and then track your progress. It provides stats and graphs and apparently rewards you with guavas when you do well…?
Software for Motivation
This one is for the seriously motivation-impaired or those of us who struggle with getting anywhere because we constantly go back to edit. There are a ton of settings for this app, but you’re basically penalized when you stop writing. With certain settings it will actually start deleting words if you stop before you reach your goal!
I am SO hooked on this! My brother invited me to try it out. We made accounts, set up a sprint, and waited until the timer hit 15:00 (the sprints are longer than that, but I prefer the 15 minute increment for some reason).
You’re wondering why you need a fancy program to do a wordsprint. Why can’t you just set a timer and compare wordcounts at the end?
Because with this site, you can see the wordcount gauge move in realtime as the other participants write! You’re literally racing them. It’s ultra motivating. Each time I’ve used it, I’ve written over 500 words in 15 minutes. That’s nearly double my usual writing pace.
You can copy and paste what you’ve written into your WIP’s document, or you can have the site backup to your Dropbox account automatically.
Note: I think this may follow the Pomodoro method. The sprints timers are about 20 or 25 minutes long. When the time is up, it automatically starts counting a 5-minute break before starting again.
Check out this Wordquill post for a bunch more word sprint resources!
If you’re not using writing prompts, you should be! Get prompts and inspiration delivered daily to your Facebook Messenger (accessible on your computer or with the Facebook Messenger mobile app on your phone).
And that’s a wrap! Do you have a favorite writing-specific app or program to share? Mention it in the comments!
Did one of these catch your eye? Which one? How do you think you’ll use it?
Perry is a 20-something author with a lot on her plate. She’s wife to Tyler; mom to four little boys, two dogs, one cat, and 12 chickens; and author of five little books. She’s the admin of this site, as well as a freelance book designer and the creator of the WriteMind Planner for authors. She lives in the sunny southwest.
Offers: cover design and the WriteMind Planner at perryelisabethdesign.com